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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Love stories / Romance
- Subject: Love / Romance / Dating
- Published: 04/10/2011
Being in LoveBorn 1929, M, from Roseville/CA, United States
BEING IN LOVE (Approx. 4,000 wds.)
Arnold Grey had been asked to lunch, for the first time, by his boss Tommy Flowers. They were at a trendy (and expensive) restaurant in downtown San Francisco, frequented by ad agency, public relations and media types. The luncheon invitation was by way of being a reward for Arnold's working 80 hours the previous week on one of the surveys being done by Flowers' research firm, a small one but well-known locally because of Tommy's political connections, his father having been in the state senate.
"Have a drink," said Tommy, ordering one for himself.
"No thanks," said Arnold.
"You don't drink and I know you don't smoke," said Tommy, as he lit a cigarette. "You're going to ruin the reputation of the firm. Should I ask you about girls?"
At that moment, a beautiful young woman, blonde, tanned, dressed in an immaculate white suit, entered the restaurant and stood for a moment looking around. Arnold's attention, like everyone's in the restaurant, was focused on her, as if she stood in a spotlight.
Evidently seeing whomever was waiting for her, the young lady moved gracefully and purposefully through the crowded tables. As she passed them, Tommy Flowers said, "Hello, Julie." She stopped and said hello. Tommy knew everyone and everyone knew him.
"Allow me to introduce you to one of my new colleagues," said Tommy. "Arnold Grey. He's from New York. Arnold, Julie Landis. She's with Popper and Tuttle."
Arnold stood up quickly, letting his napkin fall from his lap and knocking a fork off the table. Julie Landis was almost as tall as he was. She extended her hand and smiled, showing brilliant white teeth. Her grip was firm. Arnold thought her eyes were grey, or were they green? After a long moment, he realized he was still gripping her hand and let it fall. She looked amused. "Welcome to San Francisco," she said.
"Thanks," said Arnold. His voice sounded strange to himself, as if he'd run out of breath. He sat down as Tommy said, "I'll give you a call, Julie. Let's have lunch."
"Fine, Tommy." She smiled again and continued making her way through the tables.
"Smart girl," said Tommy. "And not bad-looking. She's assistant research director at P and T. Of course, they don't have much of a research department. We've done a couple of jobs for them in the last year, always an emergency."
"How old is she?"
"I don't know. In her late twenties, maybe. Why?"
That would make her only two or three years older than him. "Just curious."
The waiter came back with Tommy's drink and they ordered lunch. Tommy knew a good many stories and he told them well. Ordinarily, Arnold listened with fascination. But this time he hardly heard what Tommy was saying, thinking about Julie Landis.
* * *
The next day when Arnold left work (he lived on Hyde Street and was able to walk to his downtown office), he thought he saw Julie Landis walking ahead of him on Montgomery Street. He hurried along but when he got closer saw that it was another tanned blonde young woman. There were quite a few in San Francisco. That weekend he was up early on Saturday, cleaned his small studio apartment, did some shopping and wrote a letter to his parents back in New York. He also wrote his monthly checks, including the car payment for the used Volkswagon he'd bought when he first came out to San Francisco. When he was done, he was pleased to see that his balance was a little higher than it had been the month before.
That night Arnold went to a party at someone's apartment on Steiner Street. He'd been told about it by one of the media salesmen he'd met at work. The apartment was already filled with people when he arrived, all talking loudly. Arnold suspected that very few of them knew each other and that most had heard of the party second-hand as he had.
He looked around. He'd thought that Julie Landis might possibly be there but even as he looked he realized that it had been a far-fetched notion. The only person he recognized was Paul Marks, who did research in the local branch of one of the national ad agencies. Paul was in his early thirties, also from New York. He and Arnold had met at meetings of the San Francisco Marketing Association and they occasionally played tennis with each other. Paul always had a lot of information about the ad agency scene in San Francisco and sometimes it was even accurate.
"How're things at the firm?" asked Paul.
"Business not falling off?"
"Not that I know of. Have you heard anything?"
"Not really. But it's a pretty small place, you know. Maybe you should start looking around for some bigger outfit."
"I like it being small. I'm getting a lot of good experience. I met Julie Landis the other day, the assistant research director at P & T. Do you know her?"
"I've heard about her. Supposed to be quite a dish. I hear she has a thing going with the agency president, George Armstrong."
"Oh." They talked a little more and arranged to play tennis the next weekend. Arnold left early. Back in his apartment, he considered Paul's comment about Julie Landis and decided to discount it. He imagined calling Julie at her agency and asking her out but knew he'd never do it.
* * *
During the next two weeks, Arnold worked normal hours at the firm. Tommy Flowers seemed to be out a great deal. Then on a Friday morning Tommy called him into his office and Julie Landis was sitting in the visitor's chair. She was wearing another suit, this time a dark green. Her short skirt showed off her legs and Arnold couldn't help looking at them. "You remember Julie, don't you?" said Tommy. "P & T wants us to do a phone survey for them. A quickie. They need the results by the end of next week. I'd like you to do the number-crunching. It'll be more overtime."
Arnold coughed to clear his throat. "That's okay," he said. "I'm just about caught up."
"Good." Tommy stood up from behind his desk and handed him a folder. "Take a look at this." He turned to Julie. "Are you ready for lunch?"
Julie stood up. "Do you have any questions?" Tommy asked Arnold, who was still standing in the doorway, watching Julie.
"No," said Arnold. He was evidently not going to be asked to join them for lunch. "I'll look this over right away."
* * *
The telephone survey was ostensibly to find out about people's shopping habits but its real purpose was to ask about a new household product of one of P & T's major clients, which was being test-marketed and had been on the shelves for three months. Arnold quickly read through the survey plan and the brief questionnaire, asking if the product had been bought and, if so, how had people liked it. Respondents were encouraged to answer by the offer of a one-dollar off coupon.
The phoning started the next Monday and by Tuesday afternoon Arnold was getting computer printouts of the results. He worked late every night, assembling figures into various tables. by sex and age, location, income, number of times shopping in a week, stores patronized. The client wanted a very detailed report.
Arnold was still working on his tables around seven Thursday night. Everyone else in the office was gone. He heard a noise and, looking up, saw Julie Landis. "Hi," she said. "I thought I'd come over and see if you needed some help. Our client's been calling about the survey every day."
"Hi," he said. "If you don't mind doing some calculating. There's still a dozen or so tables to finish."
"I'm an old hand at calculating. How's it look so far?"
"Not bad. A pretty good market share for a new product and most people liked it. I've changed the geographical areas a little. The ones you had seemed too broad and gave some strange results."
She came over to his desk and stood next to him, looking at the tables. He could smell her perfume. Although she wore her usual suit, he was acutely aware of her breasts beneath her blouse and jacket. As always when he was near her, he felt out of breath and his throat seemed clogged up. "I see what you mean," she said. "That's much better. Can I use that desk over there?"
She briskly took off her jacket, sat down and got to work. Arnold tried to focus on the figures before him, which appeared to be swimming around on the paper. "Be professional," he told himself. "Be professional."
They finished at ten o'clock. Arnold showed her his report summary, everything boiled down to one page so that the client could see the survey findings at a glance. Julie read it quickly, then made a few penciled notes. "Just cosmetic," she told Arnold. "I know the style they like. I think it'll go over well."
After Arnold had put his draft on the secretary's table, to be typed first thing in the morning, they left the building. The street outside was deserted and the night air was cold; the famous San Francisco fog had come in. "I hope I can get a cab," said Julie.
"I'll drive you," Arnold said quickly. "I knew I'd be working late tonight so I drove in."
She hesitated. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"No. It's fine."
They went to the building's small parking lot, where Arnold's Volkswagon was the only car left. She told him where she lived, a Pacific Heights address. When they arrived there, she said, "Come on up for a drink. We have to celebrate."
She turned on the lights as they entered and said, "Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'll be right back." The living room was large and nicely furnished but somehow the apartment was not as impressive as Arnold had thought it would be. He'd imagined a place high up in some tall building with a view of the city. He walked over to the window and looked out. There was no view, only other buildings with the fog swirling in between. Well, ad agency researchers, even those with a title, didn't make a lot of money. That was reserved for copywriters and account executives.
When Julie came back, she opened a cabinet, which Arnold saw contained a number of liquor bottles. "What will you have?" she asked.
"Whatever you're having."
"All right." She came over with a glass for him. Lifting her own, she said, "Here's to a happy client."
She'd taken off the suit jacket and also her shoes because she was now definitely shorter than Arnold and somehow seemed less formidable. "Sit down," she said, and they sat at opposite ends of a long sofa. "So, tell me why you came to San Francisco."
Arnold told her of going to New York University on a scholarship, majoring in English because he really didn't know what he wanted to do, then of his long search for a job because everyone seemed suspicious of an English major who didn't want to go into teaching. Finally, he'd been hired by a market research agency and discovered he had a flair for numbers. He went back to school at night to take courses in statistics. All the while, he was becoming dissatisfied with New York. It was expensive and he had to remain living with his parents because he couldn't afford his own place. His mother was constantly after him to find a nice Jewish girl and get married. He kept on hearing what a great city San Francisco was and so he'd decided to give it a try.
She told him she'd come to San Francisco four years ago, from Minnesota.
"Minnesota? I thought you were a California girl."
"No, not at all. My family are Swedes. That's where the blonde hair comes from. I think I came here to get out of the cold." Arnold had almost finished his drink and the unaccustomed alcohol had made him a little light-headed. Or was it the proximity to Julia? Somehow they had moved closer together on the sofa. He made a decision. This was probably going to be his one and only chance. He kissed her.
He waited for her to push him away. But she put her arms around him and pressed her lips against his. After a few minutes, she said, "Let's go to the bedroom."
* * *
Arnold had returned to his apartment at about two AM, quickly undressed and fallen into his bed but when the alarm rang at 6:30 he was wide awake. After a quick breakfast, he walked to work. Last night's fog was gone and the sun was shining, sparkling off the windows as he strode along. Between buildings, he caught glimpses of the Bay, a bright blue. Once or twice he saw a blonde woman and thought she was Julie but he knew by now that it wouldn't be and he wondered if this would be happening the rest of his life.
When he arrived at his building, he noticed for the first time its elaborate architecture, all the swirls and contours. As soon as he entered the office, the secretary who was already typing up his report on the telephone survey called him over with a question and he was caught up in the business of the day.
Just before lunch he called the P & T agency and asked for Julie but was told she was in a meeting. He left a message but she didn't call back. He called again several times in the afternoon but each time was told she wasn't available. The last time he left another message, just his name and home phone number and asked that she call him. He stayed in all day Saturday in hopes that she might call but the phone, no matter how long he stared at it, never rang. On Sunday, he felt he had to get out and on an impulse he drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin county. He went as far as Santa Rosa before he told himself this was foolish and turned around to go back.
He was about to go home from the office on Monday when Julie called. "Did you get my message?" he asked.
"Yes, but I was away all weekend. I wanted to tell you that our client was pleased with your report."
"That's good. When can I see you?"
"This is not a good time. I'm tied up with meetings all week and then I may have to go to Los Angeles."
"Will you call me when you get back?"
"I'll try. I have to go now. Good-bye."
* * *
Two weeks later Arnold went to the annual meeting of the San Francisco Marketing Association. It was a large affair in the ballroom of a downtown hotel. He thought he saw Julie in the crowd and this time, when he made his way closer, it was her. She was talking to a tall white-haired man in an obviously expensive suit. "Hi, Julie," he said.
"Arnold. How nice to see you. This is my boss, George Armstrong. Arnold's the one who did that phone survey."
"Oh, yes. Very good work." Armstrong spoke with a faint British accent.
Another man came up to them and Arnold was introduced to him but forgot his name immediately. Suddenly they seemed to be in the center of a swirling crowd and Julie was being swept away from him. "I'll call you next week, okay?" he called out. He couldn't quite hear what she replied but he thought she nodded her head, Yes.
* * *
When Arnold finally talked to Julie the next week she again said she was busy but agreed to meet him on Friday for lunch. Arnold considered all the places to eat and made reservations at a small restaurant which was not an ad agency hang-out and where he hoped they'd be able to talk.
But Thursday night he started feeling unwell. He couldn't believe it as he was never sick. He took some aspirin and went to bed early. The next morning he felt dizzy and could hardly stand up. It was clear he couldn't go anywhere that day. He called his office and then left a message for Julie that he was sick and wouldn't be able to make it.
All weekend he hoped that Julie would call, but she didn't. By Monday he was feeling better and went into work. He called her again and as usual she wasn't available. He left a message asking if they could have their lunch that week. On Wednesday night he was surprised when she called him at home. She was glad he was feeling better. "Why don't you take tomorrow off and we'll go for a ride?" she said.
"But they're expecting me in the office."
"Do you have anything that can't wait."
Actually, he didn't. In fact, things had been slow since the phone survey. "No, I guess not."
"I'll do the driving this time. Give me your address and I'll pick you up around ten."
* * *
She drove a little red sports car convertible with the top down. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"For a ride in the country. You'll see. And we're having a picnic. I have everything packed in a basket. It's in the trunk."
At the rate of speed she drove and with the car's top down, it was impossible to talk. She took the same route as he'd done when he'd gone on that aimless drive a few weeks before. She drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and then up toward Santa Rosa but then she turned off the main highway and went toward Sonoma. It was a fine day. The sun shone down on lush green hills. Every now and then they passed a herd of grazing cows. She turned down another road and they were off in the country with no one else in sight.
She drove a little ways along a dirt path, then stopped and jumped out of the car. "Here we are," she said. She handed him the picnic basket and took a blanket out of the trunk. She led him up a hill and spread the blanket out on the grass beneath a large tree on its crest. They could see other hills and a blue pond in the distance.
"This is a great place," Arnold said.
"I found it driving around last year. Are you fully recovered?"
"I think so. But I called in this morning and told them I'd had a relapse and couldn't come in."
She opened the basket and spread out bread, cheese and fruits on the blanket. She also took out a bottle of wine and two wine glasses. "We used to go on picnics all the time in Minnesota," she said. "They don't seem to do that in California."
Julie was wearing a white tee-shirt with a light blue sweater over it, jeans and tennis shoes. She looked younger and, thought Arnold, absolutely adorable. She continued to talk about her days in Minnesota. "My parents were shocked when I told then I was going to San Francisco. They couldn't believe I was going to that sinful city."
"My mother told me that if I left I needn't come back. She was disowning me."
"Poor parents," she said.
They ate and talked, then Arnold took her in his arms and kissed her. He put a hand under her tee-shirt and felt for the clasp of her bra. "No," she said. "Not now. Just hold me." They lay down on the blanket and looked up at the puffy white clouds. Every now and then, he kissed her lightly or caressed her hair or ran his hand over her breasts. But she wouldn't allow him anything more.
Eventually it became cooler and then cloudy. "We'd better be going," said Julie. They packed up and she drove him back to his apartment. "It was a nice day, wasn't it?" she said.
"Yes. Do you want to come up?"
"I'd better not. I have a dinner I have to go to tonight. An agency thing."
"When will I see you again?"
"Arnold, I don't think we should. My life is, it's too involved."
"Oh. Can I call you every now or then?"
"Please don't. It would make it harder. Maybe the agency will need another survey and I'll see you again." She leaned over and kissed him. "I really have to go now."
In his dark apartment that night, Arnold lie on his unmade bed, clasping his arms around his chest. He hadn't known it would hurt so much. When he'd had the flu, or whatever it was, he'd taken some pills and it had gone away. But there was nothing he could do to make this pain go away.
* * *
A few weeks later, Tommy Flowers gathered together his small staff and announced that, owing to various financial problems, the firm was being closed. Everyone would get severance pay and of course good recommendations.
When he looked back on it, Arnold realized he should have suspected something. He remembered Paul Marks asking him at that party how the firm was doing and suggesting that he look for a job with a larger organization. Then there were all of Tommy's unexplained absences from the office. He should have known something was going on. But the only thing he'd been thinking about then was Julie Landis.
* * *
Arnold had noticed that often when you thought about a person you met him soon after. He ran into Paul Marks on Montgomery Street after a discouraging interview with an employment agency that specialized in research jobs.
"Yeah," said Paul, after hearing about the interview. "A couple of agencies have cut back on research, a couple of the big companies, too. A lot of people are looking out there. Say, you know your friend Julie Landis. I heard she might marry her agency head, George Armstrong. I guess that's getting job security. Look, I gotta run. Call me and we'll do lunch."
"Sure." They both knew that they wouldn't.
* * *
Arnold looked out the window of his small apartment. He'd just gotten back from work. In the dusk, snowflakes were falling down onto the streets of Manhattan. He'd been back in New York for almost six months. His parents were happy, even though he was now making enough money so that he had his own place.
He glanced at the day's mail, as usual nothing, then sat down in his one good chair. He felt bone tired. The research project he was working on was large and complex. He closed his eyes. Julie Landis came in. Smiling, she bent and kissed him. He felt her lips brush his. He opened his eyes and she was gone.
A couple of weeks later, he went out on a date, a girl whose number a cousin had given him. She was nice, a nice Jewish girl who'd graduated from Hunter College and was now a teacher. "Will you call me?" she'd asked, when he'd brought her home and kissed her good night.
"Yeah," he said. "I'll try."